MING'S NOT CLOSING YET ... Palo Alto's oldest and largest Chinese restaurant, the venerable Ming's Restaurant , at 1700 Embarcadero Road, was supposed to serve its final meal on March 15, but now, nearly two weeks later, the restaurant is still open and its closing date is somewhat uncertain. "We thought a particular group was coming through with financing for our project, but that fell through. We're currently looking at a new offer, and it looks like we may now close in June," Ming's owner Vicky Ching , said. But the overall plan, which was announced by Ming's last year and called for the demolition of the 10,000-square-foot restaurant, remains intact for an extended-stay hotel, according to Ching. Staybridge Suites , a part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, is still on board to build a four-story, 174-room hotel. A substantially smaller Chinese restaurant — with seating for about 150 diners, compared to the current 500 seats — will also be built and will become the new Ming's. Ching is optimistic that the new financing plan and the subsequent demolition of Ming's will take place this summer. In anticipation of that, Ching is planning to hold an auction in her restaurant to sell the furniture and memorabilia that she has acquired, including the restaurant's centerpiece — a 45-foot, wraparound wooden bar that greets customers as they enter the front lobby. "It's a vintage, one-of-a-kind piece that was imported from Hong Kong," Ching said. The orange tiles from the roof of Ming's, which were imported from Japan in 1988, are already spoken for, according to Ching, who has agreed to donate them to a Buddhist temple in Ukiah. "But almost everything else will be for sale," she said. The auction is tentatively scheduled for early June. "Following the teardown, we're estimating it will take two years to build the new hotel," Ching said. In the meantime, she wants to honor her customers by offering special events each month until the restaurant closes. "In a way, I'm happy our final closing has been delayed. It will give me more time to organize these events," she said, which includes an old-fashioned Tea Dance. "We'll have live entertainment and an extensive buffet. We'll bring out the dance floor and the band will play music from the '50s and '60s because that's the era when Ming's first started. We wanted to revive this old tradition. It will be a genteel, nostalgic kind of event," she said. Also on tap is a Chinese Tea Ceremony, complete with a professional tea master, who will perform the elaborate ritual of preparation and presentation of a variety of exotic teas to sample. Another event Ching is planning is a "Dim Sum and Jazz" brunch with a live band. "I'm doing all this because I want to thank my customers and give them a memorable final farewell," she said.
CAL AVE THRIFT SHOP TO CLOSE ... It's the end of an era for the Bargain Box , the small resale shop at 341 S. California Ave., which is an arm of the Children's Health Council. The store, which was run by volunteers and donated all of its proceeds to CHC, will close in late August. The building it occupies was recently sold and is expected to undergo a complete renovation. "We're going to miss it. It's been a part of our history," said CHC marketing manager Micaelia Randolph. Although Randolph would not reveal what percentage of CHC's funding comes from the Bargain Box, she said: "We should be okay. The agency (CHC) is doing well. We'll be able to make up the difference with other internal events and activities." But she acknowledged the sentimental value of the shop. "We've had amazing support throughout the years from our volunteers who run the store," she said.